The social role of the internet Part II: The blog as the layman’s personal mass medium

February 15, 2008

Having looked at the revolutionary characteristics all digital media share in ‘The social role of the internet Part I: the origins of web 2.0 and social media‘, the next couple of posts will focus on each digital medium’s unique characteristics. But first let’s make a couple of distinctions.

Two types of digital media

Before I begin talking about specific internet media, I would like to make a distinction between …

  • Mass media whose message is accessible by a pre-selected target audience only. The content on these media can only be accessed by the people the broadcaster has pre-selected. Email and Instant Messaging (IM) are the prime examples here.
  • Mass media whose message is publicly available/accessible. This category includes blogs, social network profiles, video or photo sharing accounts, and posts on a forum belong to this category. The message of digital media in this category can reach people in unexpected ways.

Who are you? Publisher, author, content, or all of the above?

Aside being the publisher, you might be the author or even the content of your publication.

  • Publisher: you publish someone else’s content.
  • Publisher and author: you publish your own content.
  • Publisher, author and content: you publish, content you have authored, content whose subject matter is yourself.

Of course any combination of the above roles is possible.

Blog: the layman’s personal mass medium

A blog is a one-to-many mass medium with multimedia capabilities.

barriers.jpgFor the first time in the history of mass media, that is, at least since Gutenberg’s press, everyday people can become owners of a powerful mass medium. This is due to the very low-barriers of owning and operating a blog.

Unlike traditional mass media and despite being a one-to-many medium, the blog is interactive. Allowing comments and trackbacks it encourages the interaction between publisher\author and audience.

idea-box.jpgThe fact that the comments of previous readers are visible to every other reader of a blog post however means that a blog’s audience unlike the isolated members of traditional media audiences (and unlike most one-way media) is a self-conscious community whose members (and their activity) is visible to one another. Although by activity, it is common to think of comments, there is an increasingly popular type of widget for blogs which renders visible every visitor/reader of the blog. This can lead to a proper and sometimes extensive dialogue between the readers. As a result a blog sometimes becomes a many-to-many mass medium, sort of like a forum.


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